Monday, 24 April 2017

OUGD602 - Something More Studio Visit - 24/04/17

Today I paid a visit to meet Stephen Woowat a member of 'Something More' based in Duke Studios.

I went basically to have a very informal chat about my personal branding and to discuss my future creative aspirations.

I didn't approach the studio with the hope of attaining a placement, I went purely because I really enjoyed the workshop that they did with us in the studio and got very positive vibes from them. I used the studio visit as a feedback session essentially, in order to pick their brains.

The first topic we discussed was my personal branding and whether or not they thought it was successful, appropriate or even necessary.

Their feedback was direct but constructive, which I found incredibly useful.

I came away from the meeting with mixed emotions. On the one hand, it was incredibly useful to see the set up of their studio, the space that they work in and the other people that they are surrounded with. On the other hand, I felt almost instantly that I wouldn't really enjoy working in a studio environment such as Something More - too corporate and male dominated.

It basically allowed me to realise that that sort of environment is definitely somewhere that I would not see myself fitting in, for a number of reasons.

I picked up on a number of barriers in terms of the type of work they do and the general ethos of the studio and their outlook/perspective on graphic design which kind of turned me off the idea of working in a studio of that nature. I found it difficult to relate to their outlook.

It got me to thinking that maybe I don't actually want to be a part of that scene. I'm not sure if I want to work for huge commercial brands, clients etc. I much prefer producing work that is concept driven, has meaning behind it and is targeted at smaller audiences.

Stephen asked me a blunt question: 'What do you want to do then, after graduation.'

And I replied back 'I want to get into the world of publication and printed matter. I definitely know that I like doing things that end up in the print based section of 'graphic design. I think that printed matter is going to become increasingly important as the world pushes ever further into the digital realm, where it is difficult to distinguish what is real and what is fake. This made a nice link to the themes that I have dealt with in COP over the past three years. Everything seemed to come together in a moment of clarity.

Digital design is fun and all, but I find it very difficult to connect with and really relate to. The digital world scares me, because of its fast paced nature, lack of authenticity, superficial qualities and intangibility. I realise that this may come across as contradictory, as I do use digital design tools a lot in my own practice, but everything ends up in printed form at the end of the day.

People want things quickly, especially now in the mass media age where instant gratification is so dominant. People

They said if you're going to print out a portfolio, make it massive so you can see the detail. People need big visuals nowadays. They also said to maybe think about having a digital portfolio, as it can grow and evolve as your briefs develop. Committing to print is a thing of the past. You have to get with the programme and move with the times.

I found this feedback and advice very useful, but I have to remember to stick to my guns and not take everything they say as gospel. Its more interesting to stay true to your belief system than follow the crowd all of the time.

Friday, 21 April 2017

OUGD602 - Catalogue Studio Visit 21/04/14

Tom's very minimal workspace ^

In-house fabric screen printing facility ^

Tom's bookshelf mainly featuring publications that Catalogue have had some form of input with ^

One of the publications that Catalogue work on which excited me the most ^

Today Amelia and I paid a visit to Catalogue studio in central Leeds to speak with Tom, the lead designer and a recent Leeds College of Art alumni member. So far, this visit has been the most exciting and useful for myself, because the work Catalogue produce appeals to me massively and I could certainly see myself working in a studio environment such as this. 

I came across Catalogue in second-year, when a fellow course mate pointed me towards their yearly publication: Library Paper, a cultural magazine which champions emerging creative talent on an international scale. It's essentially a printed version of their design research blog 'Back Catalogue' which is an excellent resource of beautifully curated visual and contextual content. 

Tom was very warm and welcoming and invited us to sit down at his desk to begin the informal interview. Instantly, he made us feel very welcome in the studio space and after a few minutes of meeting him, Amelia and I were making jokes and managed to build up a flowing rapport with him. After speaking for about 40 minutes, I decided to show him my personal branding a couple of the briefs I have been working on recently and asked for feedback. He was impressed with my work and said my branding was appropriate and successful which was nice validation to recieve!

We recorded the conversation, so I decided to summarise the key points below:

How did you finance yourselves after graduating from LCA? 

'We did a lot of free work and small budget projects for friends and family and generally relied on word of mouth to acquire new projects. We just kept putting ourselves out there really and instigated projects. That's the best way to keep active and stay relevant in the fast-paced world of graphic design.'

In general, how did you deal with money when starting out in the industry?

'When we first set up Catalogue, I was the one who was super anal-retentive about keeping track of all the money going in and out of our business account. I literally wrote down every single transaction in a big red book, which I would not advise - do things digitally. 

We also did everything we could on a budget: living in a house with very cheap rent, cycling to work, not socialising too much, not going out for dinners or lunch all of the time and so on. Basically scrimping everywhere we could in order to allow more money for the business. 

As the first year passed, we decided to use an online service to manage our costings and tax and all of that really boring stuff. It was all a learning curve and I wouldn't say that we have perfected anything yet, we're still learning how to be as efficient as we can whilst not going completely insane.'

How do you manage with your partners operating in New York and London?

'Well, it actually works out pretty nicely. I am able to work for the majority of the afternoon into the evening on a project and then sent it over to New York where my partner Ollie will only just be waking up when I am finishing my day. It's like an endless loop of productivity which tends to run smoothly if we are both being as organised as possible. 

Sometimes, however, it can get a little lonely working here on my own all the time, but there are plenty of other people in the building who keep me occupied.'

Do you think business cards are relevant for creatives in 2017?

'An interesting question. My concise response would be yes, especially if you are looking to butter up a client or leave a really professional lasting impression. I think personal branding is highly important especially if you are hoping to work for yourself or do freelance work. Branding yourself is what can usually get you work. If you go into a studio setting and want to be working as part of a team, then personal branding can sometimes give off the wrong impression. People might think that you are trying too hard to produce yourself, which can be counterproductive in a collaborative environment.

Its also important to fill your portfolio with pieces that are REAL - that have real world value and mean something worth talking about. It is true that there is more to life than graphic design, and design about design can tend to become pretty boring and repetitive. It's about finding a balance between producing work that you really love and work that could function in a commercial setting.'

How do you view the creative scene in Leeds?

'It's thriving, but it can tend to seem below the surface. There are plenty of cliques here in Leeds, which can seem intimidating and difficult to get your foot in the door. I would say however that the creative scene is far more accessible here than in London or even Manchester. Leeds is a friendly place so I would say that starting out a design career here would be a lot more fun than in a massive capital city.'

What is your advice for someone looking to get into the publication sector of the graphic design industry?

'Just make your own publications. You would be amazed where self-directed briefs can take you. Library Paper magazine, for example, is basically just a printed version of the design blog that we both started back in LCA. That has taken us so far and is now internationally recognised by a number of art specialist book shops. Just make stuff that excites you and then if you're passionate enough, it should spark excitement and interest in others!'

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

OUGD602 - Visit to Saul Studio w/ Dan Pilgrim 19/04/17

Coffee Shop North - Dan Saul Pilgrim

Dan's workspace is in his living room - very compact but functional. The majority of the projects that he works on involve the use of the Adobe Suite, thus his workspace needs only be the size of a normal desk. Dan's 'studio setup' and general lifestyle seemed very appealing to me because he controls everything. He doesn't have to answer to anyone above him because he is his own boss. 

Today I paid a visit to Saul Studio with Amelia to meet Dan Pilgrim, a self-employed graphic designer based in Headingley. It was a really insightful visit, as I was able to ask really relevant questions about life after graduation and be relaxed around a professional designer. Dan was super friendly and full of great advice which filled me with confidence for the future. 

Unfortunately, we were unable to record the visit and the questions we asked, but I retained a lot of the information Dan communicated. Amelia and I took it in turns to ask questions, which he was more than comfortable answering. 

How do you acquire clients and keep a steady stream of projects coming in?

'Sell yourself basically! Go to everything, every event, every exhibition, even if it seems pointless. By putting yourself out there physically, you will be able to meet your clients and stick in their mind. Hopefully, you will then get passed on through their recommendations to other clients. Being self-employed, I would say that I am a slight disadvantage in terms of getting myself known and out there. Working in a studio, you are instantly more exposed to briefs and exciting project, working independently from home restricts the amounts of exposure you will get in terms of acquiring contacts. 

Also, follow everyone and everything that interests you. The more you follow, the more likely you are to come across opportunities. You really have to make the most of the power of social media as a tool for finding worthwhile projects.'

How do you decide on the hourly rates/charges for the work you undertake?

'It really depends on the nature of the project itself and the client that I am working for. It's about finding a balance in terms of the client's budget and the amount of time I estimate it will take to complete the work. I have done a number of projects free of charge when I was starting out after graduation which isn't a good habit to get into. Once you start finding a steady stream of work, working out pricing tends to become a little easier.

I also like to think ahead in terms of the deliverables. Say I am doing a branding project, and all the client asks for is a logo, I will design the logo but then suggest other areas in which the identity could appear, for example, tote bags, notebooks, beer mats etc etc.'

How do you manage your time and cope with working from home?

'I generally tend to wake up quite early in the morning, tend to my emails for an hour or so and then work up until and after lunch for several hours. I try to have a certain cut off time so that I don't spend my entire day working inside because that can become repetitive and stagnant. In the beginning, I definitely found it difficult to draw the lin between actually relaxing in my flat and doing work, but I quickly realised that that was counter-productive and that there needed to be some form of separation. It definitely takes time to find a rhythm that works efficiently for your practice.'

Do you think business cards are relevant/necessary in today's creative industry? 

'That's a good question. It's tough to say because I think it really depends on the type of creative person using the business cards to promote themselves. I am a firm believer in printed material so my honest reaction would be yes, they are relevant. I actually really enjoy collecting beautifully designed, well thought out business cards, purely for aesthetical reasons. I have actually been contemplating designing a new set of cards for myself, and getting them printed really nicely, as a sort of early Christmas present to myself!'

What is your opinion on working for a studio straight after graduation?

'I think it's great if you know that that is what you want to do. I definitely wanted to see if I could survive on my own after uni, so that's why I chose to go freelance straight away after graduating. It was scary, but a good type of scary. Studios are great places to work in especially if you want to stay relevant, keep up to date with current trends and produce highly contemporary work. It isn't impossible to produce that kind of work through working on your own, but there is a certain level of isolation when you are in a position such as mine. Again, working for yourself forces you to become your biggest promoter, constantly putting your name out there in the hope of finding work.' 

How do you view the creative scene in Leeds?

'Leeds is an amazing place for creativity. It has a really independent scene which is perfect for people like me who prefer to do things on their own grounds. If you are interested in getting into editorial work, however, I would say London is the place to be purely because there are more opportunities going down there. There is definitely no shortage of graphic design studios in Leeds though and it is expanding all the time, growing as more and more young people flock here from London.'

I also took some business cards along with me and a poster-zine style portfolio featuring some of my most exciting recent work. Dan gave me some positive feedback on my work and mentioned that he really admired the type choice used on my updated personal branding and in a few of my poster briefs completed as part of extended practice.

Monday, 17 April 2017

OUGD602 - Skype Call With Hungry Sandwich Club 17/4/17

Today, Amelia and I took part in a Skype call with the Hungry Sandwich Club instead of completing a studio visit in person. We were really grateful that the guys from the studio were willing to give up an hour of them time to help us out by answering a few of our pressing questions. It would have been more insightful to pay a visit to their studio space, but we gathered more than enough information from just speaking over the internet. 

Amelia and I came together for this because we both really admire the work that the Hungry Sandwich club produce and are also really interested in their studio setup/general ethos. It also helps that they went to LCA, did the same course as us and can probably relate to the way we are currently feeling this close to graduation. 

All three members of the studio were present for the video call which was brilliant. Amelia and I found it really great to learn out about all of their different backgrounds and creative interests. We recorded the interview and the responses are transcribed below:

How did you guys collaborate and come together to form the collective?

'We basically did every brief together in third year, using every opportunity we could to collaborate together to develop an aesthetic which represented both of our styles and creative concerns. We even tried to get a joint placement together which didn't go so well. We also just went to every show, exhibition and event that we could together so that people started to notice us as a pair. Showing up to everything helps, as people begin to remember you and that usually gets the conversation flowing. Once we had graduated, we knew that we wanted to start the hungry sandwich club, as we had sent out a few paper cut outs of stereotypical sandwiches to studios in various attempts to attain a placement. We just ran with the whole sandwich concept after that really!'

James, their most recent employee is a motion graphics specialist who is self taught and did not come from a university background. It was interesting to get his perspective. He basically knew that he wanted to work in the field, so just approached a load of studios and taught himself the basics - from there he managed to land the full time positive at the Hungry Sandwich Club.

What are your favourite typefaces?

'We both used Futura for pretty much every brief we did in third year, because its a timeless, beautiful font. Once we started working professionally however, we realised how annoying it really is. It's so pointy, and that proved to be more of a problem the more commercial we went. It's still a lovely font though!'

What's your opinion on Behance and other portfolio platforms?

'Online portfolio platforms are amazing, because they showcase the best of your abilities to a global audience. Sites such as Behance can elevate you to the next level. Having a profile on such a site can certainly lead to big opportunities, but so can personal websites. The major draw back of sites such as Behance is that people just view highly polished work and can often lose sight of its real world value. With everything being online nowadays, its easy to forget the levels of research, idea generation, experimentation and other considerations that go into a fully realised graphic design project.'

What's the biggest challenge you've faced in the industry so far? 

'Budgeting and keeping a steady stream of working flowing into the studio have been some of the biggest challenges to date. It does get slightly easier as the months roll by, but we are still learning every day.'

Monday, 10 April 2017

OUGD602 - Studio Visit Organisation w/ Amelia

Today, Amelia and I took it upon ourselves to get in contact with a number of Leeds based design studios to enquire about the possibility of undertaking a few quick studio visits at some point in the coming weeks.

All of the studios in which we decided to get in contact with produce work that really appeals to both of our current design aesthetics and creative concerns. We consciously chose these studios instead of just ringing up every design studio in the immediate vicinity, in order to make sure the visits are relevant to our careers upon graduating from LCA.

We took in turns speaking to the studios and received mixed responses. A number of the studios immediately said no to the notion of a studio visit, as they do not have an ‘open door policy’. This was somewhat frustrating; however, we did manage to confirm a studio visit to Catalogue (which is somewhere that I actually applied to do a placement) on Friday 21st of April.

Catalogue are a London and Leeds based creative institution who are responsible for producing a number of highly contemporary publications such as Library Paper, a culture magazine which I have been following for some time now.

This type of studio is somewhere that I 100% aspire to work in for a number of reasons; the most important is quite simple: they produce some pretty cool work, which is current, contemporary and deals with subject matters which I massively relate to. I can definitely see myself fitting into a studio environment of this type either here in the UK or in a creative hub somewhere in Europe. 

Catalogue curate a design blog which I find hugely inspiring named 'Back Catalogue'. It's reminiscent of sites such as ItsNiceThat but is more contemporary and critical which I enjoy. 

A number of other studios agreed to answer some questions either via email or Skype interview, which is also positive and beneficial. I look forward to chatting with them to pick their brains about the current state of the field/creative industries as well as quizzing them about their careers and the steps they took upon graduating with a creative degree. As I have been unable to secure a placement/internship, these responses will be massively useful in helping to broaden my knowledge and boost my self-confidence. 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

OUGD602 - Stop Being Selfish

A few weeks ago, John sent a highly inspirational email out to Level 6. I read it several times and found it very encouraging, so I decided to use some of the key points in one of my extended practice breifs which focuses on communicating inner feelings and deep thoughts through the use of typography. Here is the entire message:

Stop Being Selfish.

Being ‘self conscious’ is really being ‘selfish’, as in a way, you aren’t being your true self and people aren’t getting the benefit of your personality and all of the things that make you who you are and what you offer.
This is a block in the potential of all the things you CAN achieve with a reduced self belief.
Where does ‘self’ belief come from? 
From the self knowledge in your abilities, points of difference and self recognition.
How many times as a child when your teacher asked a question and you knew the answer but were afraid to put your hand up? WHY? You knew the answer?
We believe the labels we are given or give ourselves and this can stop
growth and more so achievement. We label ourselves as ‘Introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ easily and we feel safe behind this label, which I’m many cases
We don’t, in reality actually like.
Self evaluation is fine, but self evaluation without the labels works even better, we can then see our specific gifts and abilities, all those things we have to offer. This should make you more confident.
Confidence should not be mis-recognised as arrogance, that works against us and draws negative response. By being ’shy’ we fail to share our gifts and our talent (which we have to self recognise’ to progress and be honest with ourselves). If YOU are happy with what you do, that is what really counts. 
But by telling oneself that we are not ‘good enough’ is an attitude that holds us back and can make us more ‘invisible’. We can’t see something; it in most cases doesn’t exist. So who wants to be invisible?

How can you make yourself visible?
Stop the self doubt, (easy to say) but it will hold you back and prevent self realisation that will give you the strength to be ‘visible’. Evaluate your position in life and draw ups pro’s and con’s list and you should see all of the wonderful things you have to offer. Newness, freshness and the potential to be very useful and grow other people’s achievements…sharing
yourself an not being selfish (even though you don’t see it that way).

The point of realisation.
Once you can identify your abilities, see them for what they are and the potential in them and yourself.
You can grow and flourish. If you simply don’t see yourself as an asset, how will anyone else. This point of realisation is simply stopping ‘hiding’ or doubting yourself. Setting aims is a better way to help you getting closer to getting what you want.
List all the things you ’need’ and then all the things you ‘want’ and see the difference. There are things you ’need’ to do to achieve the things you ‘want’. Don’t wait for others to do this for you, they are too busy doing it for themselves.

Honesty is a great feeder of confidence, if you honestly love your work, it should give you confidence that you can achieve what you want to. Are you good? Or are you mediocre? Would you describe yourself as average in a job interview? Would you not make an effort to get a job?
That simple trick can work, consider every day as a job interview and show you best side and this can grow confidence. Be ‘happy’ and learn to look happy (not a silly grin that may make you look weird), awake and on the ball. Sounds crazy, but a sluggish approach to your day is a great way for others to see you as ‘mediocre’. You have ability, potential and freshness
That makes you good to know…show it. Be passionate about your work and it will help you achieve more, people see you as ‘interested’ and committed. This in itself should give you confidence, and will get you further than being ‘invisible’.

You are you, all others are taken.
By simply recognising your abilities, you become ‘more’ required and discussed, if you don’t see your abilities as of now, you are being selfish and again ‘mediocre’. When did you last get up in the morning and said to yourself ‘today I’m going to be really mediocre’? You are better than that
And you KNOW you are…simply believe it ‘out loud’

The ‘passion’ to achieve.
Having ‘passion’ is simply wanting to do your best, and that is something that will potentially make you stand out from the crowd. We can’t always be famous, but we should strive to be better each project and each day.
Motivation is a big thing, avoid de-motivators, they are simply holding you back and ‘taking your eye off the ball’ for their own progress and benefits.

Passion can help you achieve more.
Look at people such as:

Christiano Ronaldo
Paula Scher
Stephen Hawking
CoCo Chanel
Steve Jobs
Beatrix Potter
Elon Musk
Walt Disney

They all had to have confidence and passion for what they wanted…but soon as you consider them as ’special’ you are putting a potential block on
Your potential.This does not mean we will all be as famous as these, but you must consider they had to have passion to ‘want’ what they achieved.

But, I might fail?
What do you consider ‘failing’? Steve Jobs failed many times, Rembrandt
failed, he was bankrupt six times, Steve Jobs fired a few times. So what we see as failure is simply ‘learning’ and should spur us on to ‘win’ or achieve the next time. If you understand this, you will have the ‘passion’ to progress.
When a child and we touch something hot, we learn not to do it again.
Same with not winning, it should make us want to win the next time.

Like Eric Clapton said’ If you’re any good at what you do…you know you can be better’ others say the same.

“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” Richard Branson

“Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself”. Charlie Chaplin
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
Albert Einstein

So, it’s good to see failures as a recognition of what you need to do to win.
Now it is time to put those failures in the box (you are still aware of them) and be your ‘real’ self and stop bing selfish. Share your talent and ability and talk about what you want and what you want to achieve.
To quote Oscar Hammerstein in the musical South Pacific.

‘You gotta have a dream. If you don't have a dream, how you gonna make a dream come true?’ Oscar Hammerstein II

Now be visible, be you and tell those you need to.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

OUGD602 - Easter Workshop: Your Career, Your Future

Career Track Easter Session – 04/04/17

Today I attended a highly engaging and beneficial careers session with Herminie Berry; an experienced careers and recruitment professional. The session focused on building confidence, ability to articulate my practice and key skills, recognising my creative and non-creative concerns/interests and most importantly cultivating an awareness of the current creative job market both locally, nationally and internationally.

We conducted a number of really useful activities in the session including the JLA skill card exercise, filling out a career management action plan, brainstorming distractions and barriers to success, writing down lists of aspirations and goals and realistic approaches for achieving them and a two-minute ‘elevator pitch’ presentation to the rest of the group.

What will it take to achieve your goals? This I found particularly useful, as I do sometimes find myself blocked by my own internal anxieties and self-doubt. Recognising them and writing them down definitely puts them into perspective and actually makes them seem pretty insignificant. This was a massive confidence booster for me. 

Out of everything we did, I definitely found the JLA exercise and elevator pitch the most beneficial to my development, as they were quick paced and highly focused to the position I will soon be in. 

The JLA exercise allowed me to realise the existing skills I do have which I can build upon and rely on in interview/networking settings. It also opened my eyes to the areas which need improving and will only make me more employable. Discussing these skills out load was reassuring and positive for my self confidence. It was also really helpful to hear what other people think of themselves, I found this encouraging and relatable. 

The elevator pitch was probably the most useful. We were asked to articulate our USP's and sum ourselves up in a two-minute pitch. We were allocated 20 minutes to write down our thoughts and the present them back to a group of six other peers. At the end of the pitch, we received feedback in the form of stickie notes which was fun and less intimidating. The general feedback was really positive, people said that I was very confident and projected my voice well. They also commented on how well I communicated my interests and wider concerns aside from my graphic design practice. 

At the end of the session, we spent around half an hour filling out the career action plan. I found this incredibly beneficial, as at the moment I completely unsure of what I will be doing upon graduation. Using this table, I was able to identify a number of goals and ambitions that I have for the immediate future as opposed to a 5 - 10 year plan. I have already been contemplating a summer placement/internship/summer design school, however, this exercise allowed me to realise a number of other things that I should probably undertake once I leave college. I definitely plan on starting a research blog when I leave to document and articulate all my ideas and concepts. I also plan on regularly entering competitions and writing loads of briefs to keep my creative mind active once I leave the safety net which is LCA.  

Sunday, 5 March 2017

OUGD602 - Hepworth Wakefield Print Fair Visit

Today I paid a visit to the Hepworth Wakefield Print Fair for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I was feeling low on inspiration, so I thought it would be an excellent place to go to feel visually inspired and check out the direction in which traditional print is heading in 2017. I have always had a love and appreciation for printed matter, so these sorts of events are constantly on my radar. 

Secondly, I viewed this event as an excellent opportunity to build up casual conversation with practicing artists and designers, push myself to network and to potentially gain some form of a placement or a studio visit. I did my rounds of the event and came across a couple of names which I was already aware of and a few that were new.

I approached the YUCK print house stall and got chatting with them about the possibility of a studio visit and they were all too happy to say yes, which I found really encouraging after all of the rejections I have received over the last few weeks. 

YUCK don't do any actual design work themselves, they simply print other people's work using a variety of analogue printing methods, which is something I am very intrigued about. They represent the works of a range of artists, designer's and printmakers, some of whom really appeal to me. I look forward to visiting their studio space in Manchester soon simply to get an idea of what a typical day's work is like for them.